LOS ANGELES — Paul Pierce has been my favorite NBA player since he entered the league as the 10th pick of the 1998 Draft. Through thick and thin, some losing and a LOT of winning, he personified what Boston Celtics basketball was for the last 15 seasons. He was the Captain and The Truth.His draft-night trade, along with Kevin Garnett and others, to New Jersey was made official Friday, which ended his fantastic and Hall of Fame run at the Garden. Such, I felt compelled to reach out and express my love, gratitude and respect for what he meant to me as a gigantic fan.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for being a true Celtic. Thank you for not giving up on the city and fans when it would have been easy to, especially in the early years. Thank you for always caring. Thank you for always playing hard. Thank you for every pull-up 3 on the fast break, every step back elbow jumper, every spin move in the lane and every fist pump to get the Garden crowd going. Thank you for being the Captain and The Truth and living up to what both of those words actually meant. It was an honor and a privilege to watch you play night-in and night-out, through the grinds of the losing seasons and the supreme joys of the winning ones. Thank you for letting Antoine wiggle and Walter dive on the floor and Scal drop 3s and Rondo drop dimes and Kevin drop 12-letter bombs. Thank you for making it fun to be a Celtics fan again. For making the Garden the place to be in Boston. Thank you for Banner 17 and in your post-Game 6 presser in 2008 for thanking your teammates first. Thank you for making it look so easy and difficult at the same time. Quick anecdote: after the championship, I had to get your jersey (don’t ask why I didn’t have one before, I mean, I’m a grown ass man, we shouldn’t wear jerseys). I just had to. I wanted to wear it around in celebration.
That summer, I went to Atlantic City with my buddies, like we do every year, for our fantasy football draft and one night I wore it out. Wore it to dinner at our traditional Friday spot, Hooters in the Tropicana, and karaoke at Desert Rose, and high-fived every person who said something to me about it because I was proud. The glory had been restored and it meant a lot to rep you. That jersey is still proudly displayed today in my house. Now, I’m a Celtics fan out here in Los Angeles, your hometown, and it’s been difficult at times dealing with the lunacy of fans of that team from here. But we stay strong. And I’ll always stay strong. You’re my guy and it’s been a great ride these last 15 years. You’ll always be the Captain and The Truth and I know you’ll always bleed green. And I’ll be rooting for you next season in 78 games. I hope I’m in the house when you return to Boston for the first time. It’s bound to be a magical moment, and likewise I look forward to the day when “34” is raised to the rafters, where it belongs. Gone but never forgotten, you’re one of a kind.
LOS ANGELES — Sportscaster Tim Brando went on what could classified as a Twitter RT rant Monday night. Sprinkled throughout it were bizarre tweets about a sex tape and what the definition of a “hero” is. He apparently took some issue with NBA player Jason Collins being referred to as such by members of the mass public following Collins’ revealing in a Sports Illustrated article that runs this week he is gay.
This is major news – Collins’ remarks, not Brando’s – not regulated to only the sports pages. Collins is not the first professional athlete to come out and he won’t be the last. He’s not even the first active professional athlete to do so – women’s basketball player Brittany Griner did the same just recently in the coolest and most nonchalant way possible – but he is the first among the four major sports; NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and that is why it’s major news. Someday we’ll live in a world where it isn’t and I hope I’m around for it.
For now though, when an athlete who looks like Collins makes this announcement this grand it’s an A1 story in every newspaper and on every television talk show in the country. But no matter how progressive a direction our country moves the Chris Broussard’s and Mike Wallace’s of the world hide behind the Bible and machismo when speaking about homosexuality, and their opposition makes the rest of us look bad.
But does it really matter what they think? Yes, because they have a public platform in which their reaction is deemed newsworthy; and no, because they are shortsighted. People are entitled to their opinion, as wack is it may seem to others. And while I might have in the past, I won’t tell people what they should think. I’ll disagree with them, but that is my right, as it is theirs to think and believe what they choose. But this is an issue that shouldn’t be up for debate. You shouldn’t have to live your life in fear. Sadly, many do.
Folks will say Collins’ declaration will open doors and make it easier for others – pro athlete or not – to follow suit. He’ll be their lead blocker on this issue which has a stranglehold on our society despite the building outcry of support from those well-thinking individuals. However, there are still too many who won’t be OK with this. But like I said, it doesn’t matter. All that matters his Collins’ happiness and peace of mind, and it appears he finally has both. Collins said he’s been boo’d before, and surely he’s heard slurs of all sorts and couldn’t react. I don’t know how well I would’ve done had I been in his shoes. What restraint that must have taken.
To paraphrase my high school football coach and history teacher: you can’t deny an idea whose time has come. And the time has come for open gay athletes and it’s not too soon. Though I wonder just how much impact this will have. Collins is not superstar. He’s not even an all-star. He’s a respectable, tough and dependable team player in his sport whom no one probably expected to be gay. But is he this social movement’s Martin Luther King Jr.? I don’t know.
Around two years ago, I started posing a hypothetical scenario to friends in regards to this issue. It went something like this: suppose you knew that Player X, a super duper star athlete with a perfect image, was gay, but he wasn’t out until well after his Hall of Fame career was over. How disappointed would you be in him that he never came out during his playing days and became the face of the gay athlete and leader of the social movement? Everyone is usually puzzled by this and doesn’t offer a thought one way or the other. I, however, would be fairly disappointed. Surely the hypothetical burden he’s already under is great, but being the best of the best in his profession, there are already great burdens, so you’d think he could handle that as well. Plus, you’d have to think a majority of the sports community would be beyond supportive.
Just a thought.
On TNT’s postgame show Monday night Charles Barkely called Collins’ revelation “a huge deal.” And added, “I’m happy he can be himself. We all played with gay players.” And he’s right. We’ve all worked with gay people, know someone who is gay – out or not – and probably have a gay family member. It doesn’t matter. Who they are as people is what matters.
By all accounts, Collins is a man’s man. A stand up guy and someone anyone would be lucky enough to spend their life with. Does that make him a hero? His decision to come out now, while an active player is courageous. But Brando’s point was that it doesn’t make him heroic, just brave. My hero is my dad. The toughest guy I know and someone whom I always know I can turn to in time of need. Collins hopes to someday have a family and no doubt when his kids read about the week he’s had, they’ll think he’s a hero. And I’m guessing that’ll be enough for Jason Collins the man.
LOS ANGELES — Cool story this week out of league headquarters, where an 11-year old sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and suggested that the referees use pink penalty flags during games in honor of breast cancer awareness month. And you know what, Roger replied and instituted the idea for this week’s Jets/Dolphins game. How about that for taking action?
Player safety? Nope. BountyGate? Fuggeduaboutit. Pink referee flags. Booyah.
My best friend’s mom is a breast cancer survivor. I’m down with the NFL celebrating this month how they do. I know a lot of people who have a problem with it, think it’s tacky, makes the games tough and distracting to watch. To hell with them. The NFL is the biggest sports league in the country and is more popular than all the rest combined and it’s honorable that they do this in support of women across America.
In honor of that, let’s find out who’s the woman this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) (32) — OK, Chiefs fans, looks like you’re stuck with Brady Quinn. Romeo Crennel announced Monday Quinn would be replacing Matt Cassel for the remainder of the season. I’m gonna let that sink in for a second so you can full wrap your mind around Dr. Biceps being your starter the next 9 weeks (let’s be real, you’re not making the playoffs and if you do, I’ll fly to KC and run around town naked. In December).
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) (31) — So here’s what my dumbass did this week. Had a trade offer to a buddy involving MJD and Darren McFadden, and a couple of receivers. Said buddy did not get back to me for several days. Another came in with a trade offer of Vincent Jackson for MJD straight up. I turned that down after Jackson left practice with a calf injury, plus, I wanted to get a running back in return since I’d be giving up my No. 2. Guess what happened on Sunday? MJD – 2 carries, 6 yards. VJax – 7 catches, 216 yards, TD. I’m a moron.
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-5) (30) —I don’t have to say anything this week about the Panthers, Cam Newton said it all after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys: “The past couple of games has been the same script by the same kind of director. It’s kind of getting boring… I don’t know what it is but something is going to have to change… We just find a way to keep games close and see what happens at the end. It’s not a formula for success. And I’m getting tired of it. That’s not a formula to win. Domination is a formula to win… I’m going to leave this room and I’m going to bring a suggestion box. And I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know. I really don’t.”
29.) Cleveland Browns (1-6) (28) — Brandon Weeden has the 2nd most passing yards by a rookie through 7 team games in NFL history (1,783). Do you know who has the most? Cam Newton, last year. Not a good sign, Brandon. He’s also is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10. Needless to say, the Browns like to wing it around the yard, which I like, don’t get me wrong.
28.) Oakland Raiders (2-4) (27) — The Raiders might be the first team in the history of this column, which dates back all the way to September, to win a game and drop. HOWEVER, and I took some serious heat for this, big ups to Carson Palmer, who I explained last week the type of player he is, for getting me nearly 23 points in fantasy. Palmer out-performed his projection by more than 7 points. So, thank you, sir. Keep delivering the rock to Brandon Myers and we’ll remain good.
27.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (25) — It’s pretty bad when the coolest part of your game is when your receiver does an end zone dance of a song that’s already been beaten in the ground. And seriously, HAS ANYONE SEEN MARIO WILLIAMS?? Oh, bye week wrist surgery? Gotcha. Makes sense.
26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) (23) — The Bucs get points for wearing the cremecicle jerseys. Forget the Chargers powder blues, these babies are my favorite. They lose points for pretty much everything else that goes on on the field. Oh, and eff Vincent Jackson.
25.) Detroit Lions Lions (2-4) (24) — Is it time to start talking about the Madden Curse for Calvin Johnson? We all thought if anyone was going to be immune to the curse, it would be Megatron. But he only has 1 TD this season and everyone is wondering what’s up. Forget the fact that he’s still 5th in receiving yards (592) and 10th in receptions (38). Maybe Matthew Stafford is the problem.
24.) Tennessee Titans (3-4) (29) — My brother, Matthew, is just ballin’ out there. And Chris Johnson turned back the clock a couple years and broke out the fast shoes. That’s three good games in four weeks for CJ. Can he make it 4-for-5 against the Colts? I’d love it. #BaldIsBeautiful
23.) St. Louis Rams (3-4) (18) — London is a long way from St. Louis. The Rams are playing a “home” game against the Patriots at Wembley Stadium this weekend. We had British presenter and celebrity Vernon Kay on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week and he said the city is pumped up for some American football, and I believe him. You’d think with the Patriots coming to town, it would be a Rams crowd, right? They’re still holding a Revolutionary War grudge, I’m guessing.
22.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) (17) — Another disappointing team in 2012, the Bengals choked away a 14-3 lead over the Steelers in a key division home game on Sunday. Can’t give away those babies and expect to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Guessing the Steelers end up running the table, riding the emotions of that win. Oh, and Andy Dalton has 10 picks. Can’t keep that up and expect to win.
21.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (26) — Andy Reid is something like 12-0 in games after a bye week. The No. 1 Falcons are coming to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend. Something has to give.
20.) Indianapolis Colts (3-3) (22) — I’m glad the Colts keep winning and I get to keep seeing locker room video of a red-faced Jim Irsay handing out game balls. Go online and find this stuff, peeps, it’s priceless. And someone please tell Andrew Luck to shave the neck beard! I’ll keep saying it til it happens, not a good look, bro.
19.) New York Jets (3-4) (21) — Not gonna lie, I was fairly impressed with Mark Sanchez in the second half against the Patriots, and to be honest, the Jets should’ve won the game. They had it in their hands, and then Stephen Hill dropped it. And don’t feel bad that Sanchez and Eva Longoria have reportedly broken up, he’ll be just fine.
18.) Arizona Cardinals (4-3) (13) — Three losses in a row is not a good look.
17.) Dallas Cowboys (3-3) (19) — Barely beating the script-following, suggestion-box using Panthers does not a drastic rise in the polls make, dearest Cowboys.
16.) New Orleans Saints (2-4) (20) — No doubt, the Saints are moving up, but they still give up too many points for my blood to be a serious threat to anyone as of yet. However, a win on the road this week in Denver would get them into playoff discussion. Plus, Joe Vitt is back as the true interim head coach. Again, not sure what that means, but we’re about to find out. And did Joe Morgan make the catch of the year this week? Or maybe just the play? Either way, it was pretty freakin’ cool.
15.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) (15) — I made a bold move this week, and one I never thought I’d even consider back in August when we all watched these clowns on “Hard Knocks:” picked up the Dolphins as my defense this week in fantasy against the Jets. Hoping for one of those classic Mark Sanchez games. You know the ones.
14.) San Diego Chargers (3-3) (14) — After last Monday night’s debacle against the Broncos, this team needed a bye week. And what comes out of it, reports of stick-um use?? What year is this? Did Orlando Jones suddenly line up at receiver and we all missed it? Make 7. Up Yours.
13.) Minnesota Vikings (5-2) (12) –– Whaddya got for me this week, Jimmy: “Back in the win column. Another week closer to New Orleans in February… Tampa, then Seattle. If we bring it we’ll be 7-2 at the bye week. Scary huh?”
12.) Washington Redskins (3-4) (11) — Was there a more badass play than the 4th and 10 from his own 23 wtih 2:07 to play than My Good Friend Robert has had all season? And as you were watching, did you have any doubts in your mind that he’d pull it off? Me neither. Now, I’m not like others who think he’s the MVP of the league, but we’re watching something pretty special right now in Landover.
11.) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) (16) — While I was typing this Mike Wallace dropped 4 more passes. Seriously, bro. Call Norv Turner and get some of that Chargers stick-um ’cause you’re KILLING the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Yeah, Mike Tomlin is probably pissed, too.
10.) Denver Broncos (3-3) (10) — Did you know Peyton Manning threw for 4 more TDs and 323 yards during the bye week? No, seriously, he was playing against the Chargers on Madden and they still couldn’t stop him. Maybe I was wrong about #18. Remember, I said I hoped I was wrong. Big game with the Saints this weekend. Big game.
9.) New England Patriots (4-3) (9) — I have no idea about this Patriots team anymore, but I do know one thing: its not any good. Bill Simmons had a tweet on Sunday about getting that Larry Bird in 1990 feel, which I assumed he meant about Tom Brady being near the end of the line. And I’m not ready to go there, but shoot, man, let’s put a freakin’ game away or something.
8.) Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (8) — Their Week 7 game happened so long ago, I don’t even remember what happened. But I do know I can’t stop talking or thinking about Russell Wilson. It’s really hard not to like this kid, but he has to make more plays out there against good teams (I do not think the Patriots are a good team).
7.) San Francisco 49ers (5-2) (7) — It’s just a given that the Thursday night games kinda stink for three quarters and then heat up in the fourth. So I’m going to give the 49ers a pass for not being as convincing as maybe they should have against Seattle. But they are quite good. Alex Smith had to do more for this team to be a legit Super Bowl contender for me.
6.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (2) — Well, that wasn’t a pretty afternoon in Houston, now was it? I happen to think this is a momentary blip in the road for the Ravens. They still have a top flight offense, Terrell Suggs is back, which will help, and they still have a great coach. However, this is all on Joe Flacco now. If he doesn’t rise up then you can forget being mentioned among the game’s best.
5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (6) — Nice to see the Texans bounce back after getting embarrassed at home against the Packers. I know the Ravens are banged up, but that was a boat race. Arian Foster proving he might be the league’s MVP through 7 weeks; he leads the NFL in rushing attempts (168), yards (659) and touchdowns (9). Bow on, brotha. And that defense, sweet sassy mollassy. J.J. Watt already has 10 batted passes this season. That has to be some kind of record, right?
4.) New York Giants (5-2) (5) — I saw an interesting stat with Tom Coughlin has head coach, the Giants haven’t started worse than 5-2 since he took over in 2004. Sure, that ’04 team then lost 8 in a row after that, and the Giants have a tendency to play to the level of their opponent and start slowly at home. But ya know, other than that, they’re great.
3.) Green Bay Packers (4-3) (4) — You like numbers? Here’s some numbers: 54-of-74, 680 yards, 9 TDs. Aaron. Rodgers (in the last 2 weeks). If ya need him.
2.) Chicago Bears (5-1) (3) — Admit it, you thought Jay Cutler died when Ndamukong Suh tossed him around like a sack of potatoes and then dropped a Rock Bottom on him middle ring? I know I did. How was Cutler’s right arm not severed at the shoulder after that hit? I did like Suh coming over after celebrating to make sure Jay was OK. Classy. But why is Brandon Marshall still running his mouth? Looked like a clean hit to me. Oh, and that Bears D is naaaaasty.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) (1) — I have only one rule: when you’re undefeated AND have a bye week, you’re not allowed to drop from the top spot of my poll.
LOS ANGELES — The Crossover returns after a two-month hiatus and we bring the hoops Heat, as the Brosefolophogus of JerseyChaser.com checks in to talk everything LeBron James and the NBA Finals after Miami closed out Oklahoma City in 5 games, Thursday night. (The Crossover Ep. 25 – click here to listen)
After calling him out on Twitter and offered him the floor should LeBron come through and win his first championship, I threw up the Bat Signal Friday afternoon and the Bro delivers. He comes into The Crossover and lays down his manlove for LeBron and goes all out after the haters who dogged the King for the 9 long years he’s been chasing this championship. He is unapologetic in his priase and makes some bold predictions for the Chosen One’s future.
We also touch on some of what critics have plagued LeBron for in the past, if he’ll retire with the Heat, where he’ll end up on the G.O.A.T. list, what’s to come of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, the Thunder’s future and whether or not Kevin Garnett will hang up the sneakers.
It’s a fantastic and frenetically fast-paced hoops converastion with a true legend. Don’t miss it. And as always, thanks for listening, check me out on Twitter (@chris_brockman) and spread the word!
LOS ANGELES — Late Spring is arguably the best time for sports. With the unpredictability of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, interleague baseball, the randomness of big boxing matches, tennis and golf Grand Slam tournaments, and even horse racing; if the sports planets all align there’s the chance for something special. So when the Devils beat the Kings last Wednesday to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals, and then the Heat beat the Celtics to avoid elimination in the NBA Playoffs the next day, the intergalactic sports Gods set up a potentially epic day like Saturday, June 9.
As it turned out, there wasn’t just two or three of the previously mentioned events planned, but all six. I mean, why wouldn’t there be. It isn’t often you get a horse going for the Triple Crown, a tennis great trying to complete the career Grand Slam, your favorite baseball team playing against the best young player since Junior Griffey, a potential Stanley Cup deciding game, an NBA Playoffs Game 7 and a big-time prize fight featuring who many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. All in one day!!?! A sports guy’s dream.
However, when I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill pulled the horse, who already had a pair of stunning come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, on Friday morning after noticing signs of arthritis/tendinitis in its leg, the Gods proved they had other plans. We now know those were nightmarish ones, especially for those with northeast rooting interests, like myself.
We’ll start with the Red Sox, who are on the precipice of a disaster .500 season (seriously, Adrian Gonzalez, you suck). They got things going in the southern directional with a 4-2 loss to the hotshots from Washington (who would later sweep Boston after Sunday’s win). While I failed to watch a single inning of this contest, I didn’t have high hopes after Stephen Strasburg (6 innings, 2 runs, 13 Ks) and Bryce Harper (3-for-5, 3 RBIs and a HR) dominated the squad the day before. You know it’s a bad sign when I just expect a disastrous performance before a pitch is ever thrown; 2004 and 2007 seem soooo long ago.
Shortly there after Boston’s “L,” the rest of the field that would’ve been an asterisk to I’ll Have Another’s historic Triple Crown (he was going off at 4-5 odds as late as last Thursday) took to the track at Belmont Park before a less-than optimally hyped crowd of over 85,000 (who bet over $15M). There was a group of us watching at The Daily Pint in Santa Monica for our friend Joe’s birthday or perhaps I would’ve skipped the race entirely. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have missed a big race. There was a harness racing track near my house in Maine and my buddies and I would roll over and lay some action down; always made it more interesting. Alas, I had zero interest, but the historic mile-and-a-half jaunt ended up being a dramatic race despite the favorite’s absence. Union Rags came from behind to claim the victory but will be a distant memory to what might have been. Legendary trainer Bob Baffert once again had his horse Place, as Paynter came up just short.
Now, I’m not a hockey fan, but the hometown Kings being a game away from clinching the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history, and with the puck dropping on Game 5 a half hour before Heat/Celtics Game 7, was enough to garner at least 30 minutes of my viewing time. Our now 5-man crew shifted over to Busby’s where we’d be able to watch both events and then possibly the Bradley/Pacquiao fight later on. The move proved to be a smart one as we posted up right in front of a TV with the basketball game on, with the hockey on directly behind us for easy viewing. I turned my head every now and again to check the score; we were updated on what was happening by the groans/cheers from the other patrons. There were mostly groans as the Devils extended the series with a 2-1 win.
Of course, my focus was solely on the Celtics, who were seeking their 3rd NBA Finals appearance in the five years of the Big Three Era and a revenge victory over Miami, which took out Boston in 5 games in last year’s Eastern Conference semis. It was a torridly-close affair but the Celtics managed to have a not-so comfortable 7-point lead at halftime, however, with just 12 minutes left to play it was dead even. The way Miami came back didn’t leave a good feeling in my gut, and as the time on the game clock dwindled it became apparent that the new golden era in Boston was coming to an unceremonious end. The Heat finished off the 101-88 win to advance to the NBA Finals against the youthfully athletic Oklahoma City Thunder and their dynamic and questionably fashionable duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. What made the loss even more obnoxious, was that suddenly we were surrounded by Heat fans, fans who were noticeably silent for the previous 36 game minutes. All that was left for me to do was lick my wounds, and devour my turkey burger, and prepare for the pugilistic showdown.
I suppose we should have taken this has a sign of weird things to come, but the fight’s start was delayed by nearly an hour as 1) Manny Pacquaio, apparently a huge Celtics fan (finally, something to like about him) refused to get ready until the basketball game was over, and 2) Pacquiao, after getting ready, had to walk on the treadmill for a lengthy period of time to loosen up his calves, which he’s had problems with tightness in throughout his training camp. Meanwhile, the HBO announcing team was running out of things to talk about as everyone waited. It was beyond bizarre. Meanwhile, Bradley was gloved up and ready to go, pacing around backstage while Pacquaio went on with his shenanigans. The whole scene was bizarre, to say the least.
Finally, just after 9pm pacific time — only an hour or so after it was supposed to get underway — the boxers made their way to the ring, Michael Buffer did this overpriced thing (did you know he gets close to $5 million to be a boxing announcer for big fights?) and the dance began. It was clear from the get-go that Pacquiao was there to fight and quell the thoughts his 12-round triumph over Juan Manuel Marquez some months back wasn’t earned. The WBO champ was aggressive and closed rounds strongly, while Bradley tried to fight off Pacquiao’s his flurries. The challenger didn’t do a good job of it. Midway through the fight I tweeted out that a knockout was looming in the coming rounds. It never came.
Bradley, who we later found out broke his foot in the fourth round, fought admirably to close the bout, but by then most assumed it was a forgone conclusion he was the big loser. When it was finally over and Bradley’s cornermen lifted him up, Jim Lampley commented on the irony, since it appeared he was soundly defeated. It was even reported Bradley told promoter Bob Arum that he gave all he could but even then couldn’t defeat Pacquiao. It wasn’t until Buffer read the first score of 115-113 that I knew something was up. And even though the round went to Pacquiao, that someone could even think the fight was that close was ludicrous was not a good sign if he hoped to continue his 7-year unbeaten streak.
Then Buffer said the second judges scores; “115-113 for Bradley” and you knew right then Bradley was going to win. The final judge’s score of 115-113 for Bradley didn’t even need to be read but when it was there was a good 15-20 seconds of silence inside Busby’s while we all soaked in what we just heard and what that meant for Pacquiao, a sitting-in-jail Floyd Mayweather and the sport of boxing. What it meant for Bradley was a rematch (one that was already predetermined, ironically) and a bigger payday and a still unblemished record. Twitter was aghast with notions of a fix and it was tough to argue. Inside Busby’s, some clown in a LeBron James jersey was running around yelling his outrage to any one would listen. Many did not. On my drive home, I wondered what Mayweather’s reaction must have been when learning of the outcome. Surely a smirk was involved.
In the end, only Maria Sharapova was able to come through to win the French Open and complete her career Grand Slam. Still, she’s getting married to former Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic so a complete victory is not awarded in my book. On top of all the sports brokenheartedness, it was the first weekend in nearly three months without “Game of Thrones,” and it was the last for probably a year with a Mad Men episode.
So much hope, so much promise when the sun rose that day all for not. Sometimes stars shine bright but their alignment is a little off. Maybe next time.
SACO, Maine — Playoff games, by definition, mean more than regular season contests. First, in the sense that there are less of them (duh), which adds to the anxiety in the building; two, there’s a sense of urgency, at least among the fans, because the end could come at any moment; and finally, if those involved fail to win, they lose their jobs.
The playoffs are a BFD*.
It’s also important to remember all sporting events mean more to “us” than it does to “them.” “Them,” of course, being the athletes (see Beckett, Josh). Coaches probably care as much as we do, at least it appears so, but since I am neither a professional athlete or coach, it was just straight up pretty cool to attend NBA playoff games in both Los Angeles and Boston in the span of a week, recently.
The Celtics and Clippers. The complete opposite of the basketball spectrum. Seventeen championship banners hang in the Boston Garden; Los Angeles’s second basketball team has eight playoff appearances in 42-year history in three different cities. On the drive back to Maine after the 76ers’ 82-81 win I thought about the differences between the two venues, the crowds, the styles of the games themselves and, of course, the teams involved.
I had a parter in crime for each game and how we came to attend both started the same way: a simple IM/text which more or less read “game tonight?” For the Clippers, my buddy Eric and I decided to go at 10 a.m. the day of. It didn’t take much convincing on my part to get him on board. Once we got to downtown Los Angeles, we were full-fledged members of Clippers Nation.
I’ll let @TheGhostMo take it from here:
Walking into the men’s bathroom at Staples Center, minutes before tip-off, I almost collided with three Orthodox Jewish men. These weren’t your Larry David-esque Jewish men. I’m talking real orthodox, complete with long curly side burns, yarmulkes, and formal suits. I would have thought I was on the corner of Beverly and Hauser, except for one thing: all three wore bright red “LAC RISEN” t-shirts over their suits. 4,000 years of religion couldn’t beat out Clipper fever on this night.
These three gentlemen weren’t the only ones wearing the complimentary garb. The entire men’s room bled red to the point that it wouldn’t look out of place on The Game’s album cover. There was only one person who wasn’t wearing the shirt, who instead had it slung over his shoulder, trying to look cool. That person was me.
I’m from Milwaukee. I grew up thinking it was commonplace to tailgate before every baseball game. I remember seeing a woman wear a Green Bay Packers Mark Chmura jersey…to the courtroom for his sexual assault trial. Every stadium in Wisconsin reeks of barley and hops and that’s the way we like it.
Since moving to LA, I’ve seen the Lakers play at home for every round of the playoffs, save the Finals. For the most part I’ve been disappointed. Everyone at Lakers games wishes (or incorrectly thinks) they’re part of the spotlight, that they’re on par with Jack Nicholson. People dress like they’re going to a club and stay hunkered on their cellphones like Obama is sexting them.
That’s why I hadn’t put on my shirt on yet. Because I figured the Clippers’ playoff scene would be more of the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As I exited the bathroom, an almost certainly intoxicated man grabbed my shoulder. “You’re putting the shirt on, right???” At that exact moment, I felt something hit my shoe. I looked down and saw an empty plastic bottle of tequila rolling past. Smiling, I threw the shirt on with glee and gave the stranger a massive high five. I’ve never felt more at home in this city. #LobCityBaby
That the Clippers won in overtime only added to the hysteria. It almost felt like we were back in the 315, head-to-toe in blue and orange; it was that type of crowd, which hasn’t been said for a Clippers game in, I’m guessing, ever. Sadly, there were no more LA games for us. Baby Brother edged the Grizzlies in 7 games only to be swept at the Spurs’ hand in the next round. Oh to what next year will bring, and if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin stay with the team beyond then, there could be many more years of postseason chances for the Lobbers.
A week later, in Boston, on the other hand, I expected 19,000 Sullys, Tommys and extras from “The Town” to be drunk, loud and drunk. I also didn’t expect to get a free T-shirt upon arrival. Matt, whom I called upon to attend the day before (along with my bro-in-law, who I convinced to call out sick from work) and is as just a big of a Celtics fan as me, said we’d get towels. He was correct. We also got placards with a gigantic “3” on it, presumably to hold up after someone on our team hit a 3-pointer. Fans are such sheep. I grabbed two of each.
It didn’t matter that we were sitting in the upper deck behind the basket, just being part of a legendary Celtics playoff crowd was something to behold. From the “Dee-Fence” chants on big possessions, to “Let’s Go Celtics!” on others, it was beyond loud at times and abrasive at others. A hot start by the home team became a faded memory by the third quarter when the 76ers took the lead. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around there wasn’t a butt in a seat and the roar when Avery Bradley hit a 3 with just over two minutes left to put the Celtics up 1 could be heard all the way in Worcester.
But, in the end, the sea of green couldn’t will the home chaps to victory, as the 76ers eeked out the one-point win — Kevin Garnett drained a meaningless 3 with no time left that surely only the gamblers cared about. I always enjoy the scene after games in Boston; everyone bitching about this and that, and the T-shirt vendors selling rubes at LeBron James, the Heat and my favorite, an homage to Greg Steimsma, the Celtics enthusiastic backup center. They’re cheap, and I’ve bought some in the past after Red Sox games. Matt got a couple and we made our way home.
The 90-minute or so drive back home after game in Boston, especially after a loss, is a lot like driving home from Las Vegas. You and your buddies usually just sit in silence, maybe make a Dunkin stop and it isn’t until you hit the Maine border before someone speaks up. Usually it’s an expletive about the game; kinda like how you curse the tables in Vegas by the time you hit Barstow.
Back in Los Angeles, the games start three hours earlier and those wearing Green are few and far between. With Game 7 vs. Philadelphia set for Saturday, and the Lakers car flags replaced by finger pointing for their early exit, I’ll take solace that we have at least one more game.
I’ll be there in spirit.
* – Big. Fu^king. Deal.
LOS ANGELES — It has the two things you want in a season-ending press conference: a memorable line and one of the toughest athletes of all-time. On top of it all, Allen Iverson is wearing a Red Sox cap while repeatedly “talkin’ bout’ practice.” Not the game. Not the game. Not the game that he went out there and died for. But practice.
Has it been 10 years already? What’s funny is that just the other day I was thinking to myself about this very memorable moment in sports history. I was wondering if we’d passed the 10th anniversary, and since I couldn’t remember it being discussed in the last year or so, that I must have missed it. But lo and behold, it’s today; May 7.
Ten years ago, the 76ers were just bounced from the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Boston Celtics. Iverson averaged 30 ppg for the series but much of the talk was how he hadn’t been practicing between games or much of the latter part of the year. He had a meeting with Larry Brown, and then, it happened.
The end of Iverson’s career has been a sad exhibition of an athlete hanging on too long. We’ve seen it before and No. 3 won’t be the last. Stops in Denver, Memphis, back to Philadelphia and even the Dominican Republic; rumors of alcoholism and gambling dwindling his amassed roundball fortune, a terrible way for it all to end for him.
Personally, I’ll always remember A.I. as the skinny kid at Georgetown with a flat top and one tattoo, who would cross over and then dunk on everyone. This after thinking he shouldn’t even be on the same court as these “real players.” His 1995 Big East title game vs. UConn and Ray Allen is beyond epic and I still have on VHS tape the 1996 Georgetown/UMass East Regional Final which featured Marcus Camby.
With the 76ers, who could forget Iverson single-handedly willing a Game 1 win over the Lakers in the 2001 Finals, capped by him hitting a 3 in the corner and then stepping over Tyrone Lue. The NBA All-Star Game MVPs, the fearless drives the basket and, of course, the cornrows, Iverson was the face of the hip-hop generation of NBA players (for better or worse) and along with a few others, ushered in a new era in the NBA.
So, please, pay your proper respects to not only one of the transcendent basketball players of our time, but to the soundbite that will live in our hearts forever.